Being a dad is weird.
For my entire life, I really thought about what fatherhood would be like. I guess I was really just thinking about my own life, my own growth, and my own path in this world. I had never sat down to really think about what fatherhood would be like, to relive a childhood through someone else’s eyes. I guess I was too busy still being a kid myself.
My childhood is one that I think everyone aims to have. A quiet town, a best friend who lived next door, parks in every direction for me to explore. I would spend countless nights playing gameboy at my friend’s house, sitting on the picnic table, trying desperately to see the screen of my video games as I wasn’t ready to go home – eventually playing hide and sneak in the woods nearby so I could have an excuse to not go home quiet yet.
There always seemed an endless supply of summer nights, weekends to play with friends, and cool fall evenings to help rake the leaves. Even looking back now, I still can feel that feeling I had of total freedom, happiness, and bliss in the fact that I had nothing on my schedule – just a long list of games to play and movies to watch. Something that, at the time, I really took for granted. Because eventually all things come to an end – even if that just leads into something even more exciting.
I never really thought about fatherhood, just not something that ever really came into my head, mostly because I spent the majority of my time trying to figure out my career, desperately searching for a direction, a place I could find myself doing what I loved. I was so dead set on trying to find my way that I never really had any thought about what it would be like to raise someone who would, eventually, have to go through the same exact thing I was. Difficult interviews, long nights thinking about next moves, and occasionally talking to friends about their lives and where they were all going.
But eventually, things changed for the better, and little Adeline found her way into my life.
Even now I think about, as I write this deep into the evening, the clock well past midnight, what Adeline’s life will be like. It’s so strange to think about, because I know the exciting things that she will be experiencing, and the tough roads ahead that are waiting for everyone.
I think about how she will grow up in the same corner of the world I did, going to the same parks, playing in the same fields, maybe even going to the same schools. Maybe she will make the same mistakes I did when I was her age – like falling off her bike because this one hill in particular gets you too much speed, or jumping off of the swings too high which stings the ankles as you land. I wonder if she will ever get the same excitement I had when I was a kid, meeting up with friends at a local playground, playing tag into the late evening hours.
Just a few weeks ago, I went to a playground that I frequented as a kid. Sometimes after school, mostly on weekends. A playground that was the meeting point for so many childhood memories. Some fun, some scary, some just strange – like the time we spent hours in the tall grass looking for golf balls we saw a guy hit earlier in the day.
But this time, I went back there with my daughter, taking her to the same place that I grew up and made so many memories and friendships. Friendships with people I sometimes think about, where they are, what they are doing, and if they have ever been back to the same spot I was at, feeling the same way I was. It was quiet, the memory of those days seemingly fading away.
This time, I wasn’t going to meet a friend there and talk about our weekend plans, what we wanted to do at the construction site down the street, or if anyone knew how to fix a bike chain. I wasn’t there to play dangerous games on the monkey bars, and perilously climb the slides in the completely wrong way, just to see if I could. In fact, I was there to let my daughter make her own memories, her own stories in her head that she will play over and over again for the rest of her life. Because eventually she will be in my shoes too – she will be the one taking her kid to the park, watching them play while also having memories flood into her head like I was, thinking about people I never saw again after graduation.
In a way, I have come to realize that fatherhood is a lot like living your childhood all over again, you just experience it vicariously through someone else, watch them go through the same things you did, while also clearing their own parth.
Sometimes I forget how carefree childhood was, especially when I see Adeline sleeping away the afternoon, only to awake and go and play with her toys. She doesn’t have anything to worry about, no bills to pay, no schedule to even think of. She is just going around doing her own thing, doing whatever she wants to do. Something that I truly miss, something we all take for granted when we are growing up.
Truthfully, and as cliche as it sounds, all I want Adeline to do in life is things that make her happy, things that fulfill her and make her feel like she did something good. If there is any advice I could give her now, it would be to just enjoy the road ahead, and do whatever it is that will make you feel good at the end of the day.
In today’s world, just like many others, I sometimes find myself working with Adeline behind me in her playpen. Going through her books, playing with dolls, occasionally figuring out how to connect some blocks together – all while I sit and toil away with work. And all I can think about is what she will do someday, who she will be.
Will she be an astronaut? A cop? A lawyer? Who knows – even she doesn’t. But just the fact that she has so many dreams available to me makes me smile, and remember all of the twists and turns my career has taken over the years and what it’s like to be faced with the notion that you can be anything you want to be.
Sure, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and Adeline probably will too – we all do. She will probably take a job she hates or regrets, she’ll probably second-guess what she is going to school for, and she’ll probably be terrified when she is job-searching – a seemingly impossible task. But my entire life has all been in preparation for this, to be able to help her along the way and guide her away from the same mistakes I made, while also letting her learn on her own.
Being a father really is strange, especially when you still feel like a kid yourself. It’s realizing that, now you get to watch your own child write their own story right in front of your eyes. It’s coming to the realization that, while I am getting older, I get to see someone, and help someone navigate their own crazy life.
Enjoy the journey Adeline, it’s quite the ride.